The increasingly popular rubric of ‘customer development’ encompasses the traditional disciplines of marketing, product management, and entrepreneurship. It re-segments and combines these disciplines into something entirely focused on new product/business creation. Its practice (and its originator, Steve Blank) has one overriding directive: get out into the world and understand the customer. Paired with design thinking , the discipline is highly useful in today’s dynamic, hyper competitive environment.
My work is about helping put this and other related techniques into practice. Crucial to your ultimate success is anchoring your understanding of the customer in a picture of how you think they experience life before and after they have your product - before and after, basically. For this, I love storyboarding.
I use a (fictional) example company called Enable Quiz in my book, Starting a Tech Business: A Practical Guide for Anyone Creating or Designing Applications or Software. They offer lightweight technical quizzes for anyone looking to assess the skill sets of engineers they’re looking to hire. The personas are Helen the HR Manager, Chris the Candidate, and Frank the Functional Manager. Helen’s responsible for doing initial interviews, Chris is being interviewed for the job, and Frank’s the hiring manager (Chris’ hypothetical future boss).
I like to start the customer discovery process with personas - vivid depictions of your customers in context (think-see-feel-do is a good checklist for describing them). These personas have problem scenarios - needs and desires they’d like to fulfill. They also have current alternatives - things they doing (or not doing) about the problem scenario today. You have a value proposition - something you’re going to offer that you hope is better enough than the current alternatives to win over the customer.
Helen the HR Manager does an initial screening on Chris the Candidate. She can look at experience, but doesn’t really have the ability to validate the candidate’s skill set.
Chris the Candidate is then passed along to Frank the Functional Manager.
|Frank the Functional Manager is really busy and just goes and make the hire.|
But in this case a stitch in time would have saved nine - the candidate doesn't actually have the required skills to the degree Frank understood/expected/wanted.
Now Frank the Functional Manager has to figure out how to fix a situation where his employee doesn't have the right skill sets.
|Helen the HR Manager now has a simple way to screen out candidates missing the skills Frank the Functional Manager has said are an absolute requirement.|
|Making good hires is rarely easy but Frank the Functional Manager now at least knows they’ll have a certain baseline skill set.|
|And life’s a lot better.|